English: This was the most up-to-date DARPA logo as of January 2009. It is obsolete now. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dick Pelletier Ethical Technology
In The American Way of War, historian Russell Weigley describes a grinding strategy of destruction employed by the U.S. military over the last 150 years. To end the Civil War, Grant felt he had to destroy lee’s soldiers; in World War I, Pershing relentlessly bombarded and wore down Germany’s proud fighting machine; and the Army Air Corps pulverized major German and Japanese cities to win World War II.
These wars were not won by tactical or strategic brilliance but by the sheer weight of numbers; the awesome destructive power only a fully mobilized and highly industrialized democracy can bring to bear. In these conflicts, U.S. armies suffered and inflicted massive casualties. Our ability to both inflict and endure such casualties more effectively than could our adversaries ultimately resulted in victory.
However, today we experience conflicts that includes warfare in which dominant military powers are confronted by a wide range of adversaries; from non-state radical ideologies (al Qaeda) to transnational criminal elements (Russian Mafia) to rogue states (N. Korea, Iran); all employing unconventional tactics.
New technologies including drones and cyber weapons are changing the way we wage war, says former Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg in this 5-minute video.
In addition, some enemies are now acquiring bio-weapons. Defense expert Barry Kellman offers this scenario of a horrifying bioweapons attack: "A lone terrorist infects himself with a deadly disease that has been genetically altered for a slow infection process. He sneaks into a crowded city, infecting unsuspecting victims turning each one into carriers who would then infect others."
This single enemy could infect 10 to 20 people, creating wave after wave of outbreaks, Kellman says. Experts predict the number of cases by the end of the fourth wave would be more than 3 million, with one third of the victims dying; a million deaths caused by a single terrorist act.
Aware of this danger, the Pentagon has directed scientists at its cutting-edge Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) to find solutions. Here are some futuristic ideas being bandied about:
Cyborg Insects: Deadly viruses delivered by cyborg insects may sound like science fiction, but if DARPA officials have their way, this may one day become reality. Researchers have already created moths and flying beetles with electronics built inside them that allow a handler to direct their actions. These robo-bugs will attack specific targets and could inject a lethal biotech disease into victims.
Nanodust: Future neuroscience research could one day produce nanoparticles that can seep into the brain evoking confusion, while instilling a desire to become peaceful; thus rendering the enemy harmless. Wars of the future might be decided through manipulation of people's minds, concludes a report in this 9-minute video, which examines the benefits, risks, and ethics of tomorrow's futuristic war weapons.
The report also suggests that these technologies could violate human rights through interference with thought processes, opening up the threat of indiscriminate killing. As Orwellian as all this might seem though, if it saves people from harm and death, a public more focused on improving health and extending lifespans, than guarding terrorists' or criminals' privacy, may find this idea acceptable.
Nano Mind-Erasers: Global Village advocate Al Fin sees this concept one day becoming reality. Tiny bursts of nanodust would wipe sections of a person's brain clean without the victim ever noticing, creating an instant Alzheimer's condition. Neutralizing an enemy's memory could be more frightening than death.
Here's a final thought in our article on the Future of War: As we move forward in the years ahead, health and longevity will be greatly extended, which could place a much higher value on human life.
Living for hundreds of years could make human life the most valued commodity on Earth; and terrorists and criminals, also benefiting from these technologies, may be less likely to commit violent acts.
Could these mind-invasive technologies actually spark the beginning of a peaceful 'global society?' Positive futurists believe that it's certainly possible! Comments welcome.
Dick Pelletier is a weekly columnist who writes about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He's also appeared on various TV shows, and he blogs at Positive Futurist.
Posted: Nov 6, 2012